Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 2, Number 3, September, 1992 Page: 143
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The Epidemic of 1873, in Columbus, Texas
on the corner of Preston and Bowie streets, adjoining a large hide house, the stench from
which was very offensive; his residence was on Austin street, between Jackson and
The father of this young man was attacked on the 8th, and had fever
continuously until the 12th, when it abated, and he appeared to be convalescing well.
His bowels had not been moved since the 9th, and I ordered a mild purgative at bedtime,
which acted twice copiously in the morning of the 13th, and was succeeded by a return
of fever with irritable stomach, which did not yield until the 16th. No vomiting nor
jaundice. The son was attacked on the 15th, with a chill and fever which ran the usual
course, and I found him clear of fever on the morning of the 16th when I called to see
his father. Prescribed quinine, one half dram, ext. valerian, quantum sufficit [as much
as may be necessary]; make fifteen pills - one every two hours. The quinine was well
borne, but the chill and fever returned at the expiration of twenty-four hours from the
first one, and was marked by considerably more febrile heat than on the previous
occasion and decided tenderness in the bowels. Prescribed a saline purgative, to be
followed with quinine as before, as soon as the fever abated. Found him much better
on the morning of the 17th; continued quinine. 18th, had some fever during the
preceding night, but it had passed off with moderate perspiration. Complained of the
quinine nauseating his stomach and distressing his head. Directed its continuance at
intervals of three hours, instead of two.
On the morning of the 19th found my patient much worse; fever had returned
during the night and increased until it had attained a very high grade; thirst excessive;
tongue large, red and glazed; retching and occasionally vomiting a little water and glairy
mucus. Prescribed turpentine emulsion, with spirits nitre.; ice freely, and a mustard
sinapism over the stomach. Saw him again in the evening. No abatement of fever;
vomiting a dark granulated material, mixed with a yellowish, serous looking fluid, and
complaining of great pain in his bowels. Discontinued the turpentine, prescribed syr.
rhei. aromat. and bicarb potass., and a cold compress over the stomach and bowels; ice.
20th. Fever abated considerably and vomiting arrested; pain in the bowels
still very severe; continued the rhubarb and potash until it acted freely, evacuating large
quantities of material similar to that ejected from the stomach the day before, except that
it was thicker.
On the morning of the 21st I found my patient feverish, restless, and with
some increase of pain in the bowels; urine scanty and very red; stomach quiet, however,
and I thought doing reasonably well. Directed a weak mustard plaster over his bowels,
and the acet. potass. mixture.
12 Editor's note: Though Dr. Harrison states that six people died on October 21, he gives seven
addresses where deaths occurred. Seven persons who are believed to have died of the fever on October 21
have been discovered: Daniel Webster Harcourt, Theodore Max Bernhard Harde, Mrs. Husk, Louis Merse-
burger, Prim, George Washington Smith, and Otway Weller. Smith, who had just turned 51, lived at the corner
of Washington and Travis Streets and thus was probably the man who "had an imperfect convalescence."
Since Husk is identified as "an Irish woman" in The Fayette County New Era of November 7, 1873, we can
assume that she was the woman who died on Crockett Street. Harde, who was 18 when he died, qualifies
as the young German. Because we know that his wife, Lue Ella, also died in the epidemic, and because Dr.
Harrison dutifully reports her death, we can assume that Harcourt was the man who died at the house on the
corner of Preston and Live Oak Streets. That leaves only Prim, about whom nothing is known, Weller, who
was the three year old son of Dr. Cyrus Ottway Weller, end Merseburger, the ten year old son of Henry
Merseburger. Because neither of the children is likely to have done so, Prim must have been the men who
died at the boarding house. Weller must have died either at the house on Jackson Street or at the corner of
Crockett and Travis. But, because Merseburger's death is apparently one of the six that Dr. Harrison assigned
to October 22 (see footnote 13), the seventh victim, if indeed there was one, is unknown.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 2, Number 3, September, 1992, periodical, September 1992; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151386/m1/15/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed February 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.